On Tyranny is Leo Strauss's classic reading of Xenophon's dialogue, Hiero or Tyrannicus, in which the tyrant Hiero and the poet Simonides discuss the advantages and disadvantages of exercising tyranny. This edition includes a translation of the dialogue, a critique of the commentary by the French philosopher Alexandre Kojève, Strauss's restatement of his position in light of Kojève's comments, and finally, the complete Strauss-Kojève correspondence.
"Through [Strauss's] interpretation Xenophon appears to us as no longer the somewhat dull and flat author we know, but as a brilliant and subtle writer, an original and profound thinker. What is more, in interpreting this forgotten dialogue, Strauss lays bare great moral and political problems that are still ours." —Alexandre Kojève, Critique
"On Tyranny is a complex and stimulating book with its 'parallel dialogue' made all the more striking since both participants take such unusual, highly provocative positions, and so force readers to face substantial problems in what are often wholly unfamiliar, even shocking ways." —Robert Pippin, History and Theory
"Every political scientist who tries to disentangle himself from the contemporary confusion over the problems of tyranny will be much indebted to this study and inevitably use it as a starting point."—Eric Voegelin, The Review of Politics
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.
Every political scientish who tries to disentangle himself from the contemporary confusion over the problems of tyranny will be much indebted to this study and inevitably use it as a starting point.
—The Review of Politics
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His many contributions to political philosophy include The Political Philosophy of Hobbes and Liberalism Ancient and Modern, both published by the University of Chicago Press.
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction I. On Tyranny
Xenophon: Hiero or Tyrannicus
Leo Strauss: On Tyranny
Notes on On Tyranny II. The Strauss-Kojève Debate
Alexandre Kojève: Tyranny and Wisdom
Leo Strauss: Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero III. The Strauss-Kojève Correspondence
The Hieron constitutes the source that inspired Strauss to write On Tyranny. The classic Jenofonte´s text presents the conversation between Hieron, the tyran of Siracusse, and Simonides from Ceos, the poet, during the V century before Christ. Hieron maintains that a tyran is the most unfortunate man on the earth, while Simonides poses the possibility that a tyrant can be loved by his subjects. Strauss recovers Hieron from a long tradition that has relegated him, and tries to find on the ancient political philosophy some categories that can be prolific for interpreting the XX century totalitarianisms. He puts special emphasis on the distance that separates tyranny from sapience. Strauss shows us how Simonides subtlety evidences how wisdom represents a danger to a tyrant government. He also demonstrates how, paradoxically, obedient people see a tyrant as a source of wisdom. Tyrants definitively have a vulgar and, at the same time, fearful conception of wisdom believing, falsely, that wisdom will eventually become tyranny.
On Tyranny comes with a review made by Alexander Kojeve along with Strauss response. Correspondence between Strauss-Kojeve which ended the book is a valuable testimony of the intellectual context of the book genesis. Here two antagonist positions intervene: one from Kojeve who, following Hegel, states the possibility of reconciliation between wisdom and power. The other one from Strauss, shows how interested he was on demonstrating how philosophy continues to be, as to the classics, a critical source of political thought.
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